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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Actor's date with family history
John Alderton
John Alderton wants to make a film about the workhouse
One of the stars of the hit film Calendar Girls, John Alderton, was back at school in Suffolk on Friday - for a date with his own history.

The actor and his actress wife Pauline Collins were guests of honour at Amberfield School near Ipswich.

The grounds of the independent day school, where fees for senior pupils are almost 6,000 a year, was once the site of Nacton Workhouse.

Documents held at the Suffolk Records Office show it was home not just to the poor and infirm but also to those classed as idiots and lunatics.

I said to him 'You may think you died poor but you did make it - because I have made it, and who am I if I am not you?'
John Alderton
Among the men, women and children who died there in the depression of the 1780s was the actor's great, great, great grandfather Joseph.

Mr Alderton, who has spent 20 years researching his past and stumbled across the link while researching for a book, found Joseph's final resting place was a pauper's grave.

On Friday, after presenting prizes at the school, he visited the grave.

"It makes me feel very humble and proud.

"When I first came here, I spoke to him out loud.

"I said to him 'You may think you died poor but you did make it - because I have made it, and who am I if I am not you?' "

The dark days of disease, death and dread are hard to imagine, but Joseph's famous descendant is determined to try to recreate it.

He said he would love to make a film about the workhouse and the paupers.




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